Strawberry Hill is one of the best documented houses in the country. Not only did Walpole leave a Description of Strawberry Hill (1784) but he also described it in numerous letters to his friends and commissioned a set of drawings from John Carter and paintings by Heinrich Muntz, among others, to record its changing appearance. Specialist paint and fabric analysis in the house itself has revealed further evidence and it was very exciting to uncover large areas of gothic trompe l’oeil decoration on the stairs and landing dating from the 1750s and the 1790s.
Every aspect of the restoration has been informed by in depth research which was initiated in 2004 by Kevin Rogers at the World Monuments Fund, Britain and continued with the conservation architects, Peter Inskip & Stephen Gee who, with Michael Snodin, Chairman of the Strawberry Hill Trust are leading the project. Mark Laird, Harvard University is leading the historic analysis of the Garden.
Strawberry Hill – Walpole’s Villa – has 25 show rooms on the ground and 1st floors, most of which are being fully restored by E Bowman and Sons and a team of specialist conservationists. The top floor has also been restored and will be used for offices and staff accommodation. The roof has been extensively repaired with new lead work and re-slated with Westmoreland slate. New services have been installed throughout and under-floor heating introduced on the ground floor and a number of first floor areas. The old exterior cementitious render has been removed and replaced with a new lime ‘harling’ (a lime + pebble stucco render) specified to match the progression of finishes installed during the development of the house; lime washed to restore Strawberry Hill to its original ‘wedding cake’ appearance. The carved oak pinnacles have been reinstated on the roof and the 19th century chimney pots stabilised and repaired. The castellated parapets have been restored to their original proportions.
In the course of the works, the South East Tower (Great Tower) was found to be poorly repaired in the past and badly damaged and suffering from dry and wet rot. It was carefully dismantled and rebuilt using the original wooden frame wherever possible and employing the same structural design as the original.
The huge collection of painted renaissance glass has been conserved and re-ordered under the direction of Inskip + Jenkins by Chapel Studios according to Walpole’s original lay-out.
The core of the garden is also being restored, as far as possible, to its original 18th century design with the Open Grove of lime trees being reinstated as well as the Priors Garden and shell bench. The planting will be carried out in Autumn 2010.
In general the restoration works were formulated to take the House back to the 1790s at the time of Walpole’s death so that his progressive development in Strawberry Hill can be understood.
A fully equipped Education Centre has been created with a room for practical work and a room in the base of the Round Tower for seminars and discussions.
On entering visitors will be able to see Walpole’s ‘Beauty Room’ preserved with its various layers exposed: the wooden panelling of the original small house begun in1698; a gothic fire-place designed for Walpole by Richard Bentley; Walpole’s restored windows, shutters and painted glass; a closet with a colourful ‘bird’ paper from the 19th century; a section of William Morris wallpaper dating from the 1930s and an anaglypta ceiling paper from the 1970s! A glass panel in the floor reveals the intricate working of Lady Waldegrave’s bell system. There will be a display of artefacts discovered during the works and short films showing aspects of the restoration. One interesting feature in this room and in several others in the house is that many windows slide horizontally into the walls to give the effect of standing on a balcony.
Curator and Chairman, Strawberry Hill Trust
Restoration Architects: Peter Inskip + Peter Jenkins, Architects (Peter Inskip, Stephen Gee, Kevin Rogers)
Garden Historian: Mark Laird
Project Manager/Contact Administrators: Fanshawe LLP (Rupert Symmons)
Quantity Surveyors: Fanshawe LLP: (Graeme Ross)
Structural Engineers: Mann Williams (Jeff Stott)
M & E Consultants: Martin Thomas Associates Ltd: (Martin Thomas, Ian Puttock)
Main Contractor: E Bowman and Sons (Brian Hembrow, Dave Bedford)
Paint Analysis: Catherine Hassall
Wallpaper Analysis: Mark Sandiford
Glass Conservation: Chapel Studio
Glass Historical Research: Michael Peover, Paul San Casciani
Scagliola repair to chimney piece: Chris Wells
Fabric Weaving: Context Weavers (Anna Benson)
Fabric Weaving: fabric for the Round Room, the Great Bed Chamber and the Beauclerk Closet - The Humphries Weaving Company Ltd (Richard Humphries)
Stucco and plasterwork: Phil Gaiches
Conservation students from:
The University of Pennsylvania
London Metropolitan University
City and Guilds
The Prince’s Foundation